McKinley beat Hutch-Tech for the third time this season, but Saturday’s Section VI Class A-1 title game at Buffalo State College was very different from their first two meetings.
The second-seeded Macks fended off a strong rally in the fourth quarter from the fifth-seeded Engineers to win, 63-55, and claim their second straight A-1 title in front of an estimated early-session crowd of about 400. The title, McKinley’s fifth in seven years, came despite watching a 15-point fourth quarter lead whittled to just three in the game’s closing minutes.
Hutch-Tech (10-9) went on a 14-2 run in the fourth quarter, with Engineers senior Tim Whitehead hitting a layup off an inbound pass to make it 57-54 Macks with 1:57 left in the game.
McKinley (18-3) never trailed, though, and DaeQuan Warren’s putback highlighted a 6-0 Macks run to close out the game.
McKinley beat Hutch Tech by 34 and 38 in the regular season and looked poised for another big win Saturday before the Engineers turned up the heat in the fourth quarter.
“We have to stop playing down to our competition,” said Macks senior captain Marcus Morris. “I think our heads were big, but we just had to check our composure.”
Morris finished with 14 for the Macks, 13 coming in the first half on three threes early in the first quarter. Warren had 13, while fellow senior Lovell Smith finished with 12. Reyjzon Jordan finished with 10.
McKinley took a 35-23 lead into the halftime, but was outscored 17-14 in the third as Hutch-Tech cut the deficit to single digits.
Dave Rappl said his team changed its defense in the second half, but it was Tech’s effort that made the difference in the later quarters.
“They just picked up their intensity and they started to play hard,” Rappl said. “They didn’t want to go home and they were going to leave it all on the line.”
Rappl retired after last season but came back in January when then-coach Dave Nieves left the team.
Much like Saturday’s game, Tech played better down the stretch but fell just short in their first Section VI finals appearance in over a decade.
Jovohn Owens led the Engineers with 17 points, while Roman West finished with 10.
McKinley held on despite seeing Morris and Warren foul out late in the fourth.
“The guys on the bench, we don’t call them bench players,” McKinley head coach Zaire Dorsey said.
“We’ve got a first five and a second five and we’ve been rotating them all year. Sammy Smith was huge for us down low, getting rebounds for us late in the game. He was a starter for us at the beginning of the season. We feel comfortable just putting whoever we have to put into the game.”
McKinley will face Class A-2 champion Amherst in the overall Class A title game at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Buffalo State. The winner advances to regionals.
“I don’t know the last time a team from McKinley High School won two straight Yale Cup championships undefeated and two Sectional titles,” Dorsey said, “But we’ll have to come out Tuesday even better.”